Sunset Superman
Volume 2  Book 1 Part 6 of
Living In The Bonus Round

April/May 1999. Los Angeles.

Steve and Jimmy going to the GLAAD Awards.
Who knew we'd win?
photo by karen

[ Diary Index ]
[ Vol. 1 Book 10 ] - [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Part 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] - [ Book 2 ]

Thursday-Friday, April 8-9, 1999.
The State of the Show.
Exciting developments are brewing for The Last Session. We were nearing the end of our very healthy run a few weeks ago when the fans pitched in to run an ad in the LA Times. That and the cast at the Dodger game and the Easter Seals...

Suddenly our box office is up again and it looks like we'll be able to have a great finish when we close in late May -- and of course, I'll be gone when that happens as usual. This time I'll be in New York.

I've also added a few new appearances to the list. In July I'll be in Omaha Nebraska - July 14-17 -- to witness a local production of TLS and then the next week in Denver where I'll get to see my cyberpal Jess' play performed, as well as Denver's own TLS production.

In September, we're very close to having a new first class production at the Apollo Theatre. They want to include some star names in the cast so the casting call is out! There are so many names being bandied about including Loretta Devine, Jennifer Holiday, Bebe Neuwrith, Lucie Arnaz, Reba McIntire. It's all cool. Now let's see who bites!

Saturday - Tuesday, April 10-13, 1999.
Getting Ready for A Big Week.
I spent a good deal of time this weekend reading and writing. The Quiet Session tapes have almost all been delivered and I've been reading the reactions and listening. On Sunday I went to a reception for Rev. Paul Beeman who is the President of PFLAG, a parents group.

I discussed with him briefly my connections to church leaders in the transforming movement. We also talked about Mel White and his Soul Force campaign to help Jerry Falwell understand the extent and effects of his crusade of misinformation about gay people.

On Wednesday, Jimmy and I for the first time since the staged reading at the John Houseman in New York, will be reprising our roles as Gideon and Jim. It's a benefit for Being Alive here in Los Angeles, a support group run by and for HIV positive people.

This Saturday is going to be the most glamorous and exciting event so far -- the 20th Annual GLAAD Media Awards presentation. I've never been so nervous. It's the 20th anniversary so God knows how many celebrities are going to be there.

If we win, we have to keep our speech to 90 seconds. So Jimmy and I have been trying to think of something we can say that will be funny and real and worth a mention in the paper. :-)

Hmmm. Does that sound like a contest?

A letter from a reader:
Dear Mr. Schalchlin,

I have been following your on-line diary for a while now, Gail inadvertently introduced me to it by talking TLS up on the Sonic Rent list.

As a young theatre person I like to follow new theatre pieces and I visited your site expecting information on a new musical show. What I found was an emotionally charged site about a man dealing with AIDS and finding a voice in the theatre world. Thank you for making this kind of information available on the internet.

I lead a sixth grade Catholic youth group, and one evening I was giving a lesson on tolerance and loving your neighbor and the issue of homosexuality and AIDS came up.  One little girl, (sixth grade, 11 years old) told me that her mom said that "faggots" were dirty and going to hell.

I cried. I am sixteen, not much older than they are and they are more world weary and hardened than I am. I used some of your diary entrys the next week, and while I know I didn't get through to all of them, perhaps the message you convey through this internet page touched some of them as it did me.

I am sure you get stories like this a lot, but I wanted to tell you how your page profoundly affected a straight 16 year old Catholic. I hope that speaks for the universality of your message.

I can hardly WAIT for the Denver performance of TLS. Best of luck in future endeavors and congratulations on living in the bonus round.

Emily Mills

Jim Brochu after his triumphant performance as Jim.
Wednesday, April 14, 1999.
Steve and Jim Do TLS!
Last night just before Jimmy and I were to do on as Gideon and "Jim" tonight I was rehearsing at the piano when this cut on my fingertip broke open again. I cut it last Sunday at the theatre on a little blade -- a clean slice all the way across the tip and I thought it had healed up enough.

But suddenly it broke open and it was hurting! I wasn't sure what to do because I had tried a bandaid earlier this week and found it too clumsy to allow for playing -- it would jam in the keys and play more than one note.

So, now it's almost half hour and I'm starting to panic. I yelled, "I'M BLEEDING!" Plus, it really hurt. How was I supposed to play a whole show with a screwed up index finger??

I ran back to the girls dressing room. Amy gave me a bandaid but it just hurt worse when I tried to play. And that's when Maisey came to the rescue!

"Some director once suggested I put superglue on a cut. Works great, baby," she said. Amy was horrified. So she got out some super glue --who carries super glue around with them? -- and applied it to my cut saying, "Maisey's got your back."

And it was like a miracle. I tried it out and though the constant pounding on the keys cracked it a bit, I had little or no pain and during the performance I totally forgot anything was even wrong.

And the show! I can't believe how much more relaxed I felt this time than the first time I played Gideon at the Tiffany, although I did make one mistake. I accidentally cut a bit of dialogue just before "Going It Alone" and I forgot to have Jim say Hi to Jack at the end, but hey, that show biz.

We had a packed house and made great money for Being Alive, which made me very happy. Since Being Alive is a small organization run and operated by positoids, it felt right doing this for them. (I also called AIDS Project Los Angeles and offered the same for them but getting through their corporate structure is impossible. They kept asking for papers describing what we wanted to do -- and they didn't know who I was or who we were. Who needs that?)

But anyway...DeAnn wrote to the TLS list:

"I am not the best at putting stuff in writing so bear with me. I have to say that I was completely blown away by last night's TLS with Steve and Jimmy. To see Steve on stage performing his songs, not in a concert environment, but in the play, was so amazing..."
I'm so glad to hear this. I knew things were different last night in the way I felt when I began "Save Me A Seat."
"...The look of ... I don't know - Joy? on Steve's face while he performed "Save Me A Seat" and "Preacher and the Nurse" was so special. I could be totally all wrong but he looked so happy to be up there singing his songs..."
Last time I did the show, I was very nervous on "Save Me A Seat." It threw me for the whole night. There wasn't a single moment that I didn't feel like I was on a stage under bright lights saying words that were not "real." It felt pretend.

But last night, as I began singing "Save Me A Seat," I was totally relaxed. My nerves were not on edge and I felt like I could just relax and enjoy the song.

Okay, this is long. Anyway, lately I've been so enthused about the new songs that the TLS songs were kinda feeling "old" for the first time. Not that I don't love them, but the restless writer in me is always looking forward.

But last night, as I sang the very familiar words, it was like visiting an old friend. Yeah, I was pretty happy.

"...And the music -OMG, ... Steve's keyboarding.... unbelievable. I have seen/heard Steve play before and depending on the situation he is fabulous in different ways. But last night, the music was so much richer, fuller and deeper and all of those good words..."
I have included that paragraph purely for vanity's sake. I did it. I admit it.
"...And Jimmy? oh my goodness, every time Jimmy came on stage I laughed. I find Jimmy's mere presence funny and I cracked up at every one of his lines. He was so good..."
He was hysterical last night and so shameless. He threw every punchline right at the audience. :-)
Thursday-Saturday, April 15-17, 1999.
The Night I Hugged Sharon Stone.
It was Whoopie Goldberg who said what I had been thinking (after she won the Vanguard Award at Saturday's GLAAD Media Awards). She said, "I never saw no difference in people when I was growing up. Gay, straight, black, white, Asian... I never saw the difference and I still don't. You see, I grew up in New York City..."

To which Jimmy, sitting next to me, said, "Yep."

She went on to stress that we who support the acceptance of gay people in our society have to have tolerance for those who are not enlightened because, "You shouldn't hate someone for being ignorant. You just teach them."

I don't think I've ever been to an award ceremony with so many big time celebrities than this one, the 10th Anniversary of the GLAAD Media Awards. It was at a huge hotel in Century City and they were over 1700 people packed into this ballroom.

Our table, of course, was way WAY over on the side as far from the stage as one could get. (Not complaining, just sayin'.) Luckily they had HUGE video screens up so we could see. Dumb ol' Ronda leaned over and said, "Maybe they've seated us so far away because we didn't win..." (No, I didn't slap 'er but I wanted to...)

In other words, we were nowhere near the celebs who were in the pit section of the room. But, after bestowing some of the awards, they took a break to serve dinner.

I immediately popped up and decided to troll the pit section. And oh my gawd. Tom Hanks (who look like my brother DOS), k.d. lang, Sharon Stone, Lynn Redgrave, Whoopie Goldberg, Frank Langella, Doris Roberts, Richard Kind (from "Spin City"), the whole cast of "Will and Grace," Rufus Wainwright , Melissa Etheridge and Julie Cypher, Ellen Degeneres and Anne Heche (Jimmy: "They're so little!"), Kathy Najimy, Roseanne, Dave Koz, David Crosby -- and more. I can't remember them all. You can't imagine how badly I wanted to just sit down with them and talk, but I didn't have the courage.

Anyway, we got our dinner (a tiny chicken part with mashed potatoes, four asparagus and two carrots) and the awards resumed.

It was David Hyde Pierce from "Frasier" who announced the nominees for "Outstanding L.A. Theatrical Production." And my heart just started beating like crazy.

So going into the moment, even though I wanted this SO MUCH I just didn't dare hope too hard. The disappointment would have killed me. He started naming the nominees and my heart was pounding. I was getting ready for the let-down when he said, "THE LAST SESSION."

It felt like someone punched me in the chest. I looked over at Aunt Michael and Jimmy and leaped up out of my seat, racing for the stage. All along the route people were smiling and applauding and the big spotlights swung over and nailed us coming down.

Aunt Michael spoke first and I didn't hear a word of it. Ronda came second thanking the Laguna Playhouse and their courage for putting a gay positive play in the heart of Orange County, then Kim Espy spoke and actually started to cry, the big Texas lug.

Then Jimmy got up there and announced that there was life after receiving his AARP card. Then, he stopped for a moment and said, "You know, I was listening to [growl] Dr. Laura Schlesinger a few months ago and heard her say, 'Gay people can contribute to society but they are God's errors.' And I thought what would a young gay person think hearing that? Well, I'm proud to be one of God's blunders." Then he introduced me.

As I stood there, it suddenly dawned on me that all these famous, dedicated people were listening out there! What could I possibly say? Well, earlier in the evening I noted that one of GLAAD's biggest sponsors was David Bohnett who created Geocities.

So, I thanked David Bohnett for giving me the chance, as a sick songwriter hooked up to an I.V., to create this diary and to bring a positive word of hope to the thousands of readers who found my site. I described the thousands of gay kids and their supporters who learned, by reading my story, that gay people were just folks like everyone else.

Then I said that I was also proud and humbled to be yet another of God's blunders.

Then we scooped up our award and left the stage. Afterwards, everyone came up to us and told us ours were the best speeches of the night. And one of California Governor Gary Davis' aides came up to Jimmy and asked him if he'd like to run for office!

Anyway, after we went back to our tables, I had to pee. I felt like I had just taken 15 hits of acid. My heart was pounding and my eyes were glassed over. So I made my way to the bathroom. On the way back in, I decided to stand for a moment at the back of the room.

Just as I was about to leave, I turned and there was Sharon Stone! (Who is SO gorgeous in person you can't believe your eyes.)

I wanted to say or do something but I didn't know if she had been in the room when we got our awards, so I said something really stupid like, "Did you hear my speech?"

And she said, "YES" and she absolutely THREW her arms around me. I said, "I just admire you so much and I want to thank you for supporting all of us with AIDS." She said, "And we're going to do more." And she threw her arms around me AGAIN giving me a soul hug that lingered and was so real.

As she made her way back to her seat, I could only think, "Who would have thought this would happen back three years ago when we started this diary?" One guy said to me, "You guys are like a Mickey and Judy movie!"

"I know," I said back. "I do know."

Ronda and Kim and I then jumped into their car while Jimmy and Aunt Michael stayed to schmooze. We got back to the theatre just in time to make the curtain call. So as the cast took their second bow, Ronda and I came up behind them on the stage and showed the crowd the award. I thanked the cast for making our dreams come true. Then I turned to the crowd and said...

"And I got to hug Sharon Stone!!!"

Sunday-Monday, April 18-19, 1999.
The Patient Holiday.
I'll show you how perverse my family is. This comes from Piglet:
"You know, God must have a sense of humor. Four brothers, three of whom are grossly heterosexual, and you get to hug Sharon Stone. I hate you."
I concur with Piglet on the term "grossly," of course. But he has a point. I do think God hates him. Sorry mom. Just sayin'.

I got a few snide comments from cynical friends who thought I could have chosen a more hip celebrity to hug, but all I'm saying is I know Hollywood Hugs and I know Soul Hugs. Sharon Stone gave me a Soul Hug that came within 2 seconds of turning me straight.

Hey, maybe she could volunteer to work for Exodus and help turn gay guys straight by just hugging them. (This is humor. Right.)

But, if there is a more hip celebrity out there and if that hip celebrity wishes to hug me, I'll tell them the same thing I'm telling every movie studio and record label in this town: The longer you wait, the more expensive I get.

(Lucille Ball used to give Jimmy and me Soul Hugs. Jimmy was really missing her the other day. She left the greatest phone messages.)

I saw Dr. Peter today and told him that last week -- a week and a half really -- I took a patient vacation. That is, I got tired of being a patient so I stopped testing my blood.

No, I still took all my meds and I took them on time. I just didn't feel like being a patient. I know we're still trying to find the balance of diet and foods and -- now -- exercise. But I got new test strips and am ready to be compliant once again. See what a good boy I am?

So he wants me go to the local gym and start lifting. Not aerobic. Just lifting. He wants me to put on more muscle weight. He also thinks my face is too gaunt and temples too hollow.

I just uploaded all the gigs in my eternal tour page. May I'm in New York, July and August in Denver, Omaha, Columbus and Boston. Ten days in Boston at the end of August! Man, this is going to be fun.

None of the big TV show biz news shows said one word about us in their GLAAD Media Award coverage. You see, these shows are stocked by "faces." I learned that when I worked at NAS. The point is if we had a $5000 a month PR person, we might've scored a moment or two.

But GLAAD taped the whole thing so maybe we can get a copy of it. Just random. Bye.

Tuesday, April 20, 1999.
Karen's Pics Come In.
Morning blood sugar: 154

Afternoon blood sugar: 157

Both are too high but not as bad as it was. (We want to be between 80 and 120).

This was on the Talkin' Broadway site. Grand Poobah posted:

From the diary of Sharon Stone:

"Last night I had the honor of hugging Steve Shalchlin, the award winning creator of The Last Session!! It was a night I'll never forget!!!"

(hee hee)
:) GP"

Jimmy and I posed in our show costumes for "Saint" Alice Harkins, our beloved stage manager who is now working on "Moon For The Misbegotten" down in Laguna:

Michelle Mais and Amy Coleman:

top row: steve braverman (sound engineer), jeff, maisey, kirk stone (friend and tls investor), michael, steve, bob, kim

bottom row: jimmy, amy, ronda (you can barely see her there) and paul

This is one from last week. Karen's "artistic" shot of Steve rehearsing as Gideon. I was testing out my wounded finger:

At the Pasadena Arts Festival singing "Preacher and the Nurse":

Jeff Juday and Christine:

My babes, Evil Karen who likes Bob better than me and Dainty Lori:

Wednesday, April 21, 1999.
Morning blood sugar: 133

Noon blood sugar: 229

Thursay, April 22, 1999.
Lori's Award Night.
Morning blood sugar: 124

Afternoon blood sugar: 133

o  h   m  y    g  o  d

last night was a m a z i n g.  beyond words amazing.

first, everyone shows up at the theater in their formal wear.  WOW.  steve and jimmy in their tuxes were spectacular.  then ronda and kim arrived - w00h00.  ronda had on the most fabulous dress, kim was in all black. then michael arrived, in his tux, rwowr.  he looked reallyreally good, but i might be biased ;)

so, all night we are waiting, and waiting, and still waiting.  between shows the cast sang at a big party up in the hollywood hills.  this was great, beautiful house, built in the 20's by some silent film star who's name escapes me now.

anyway, the cast got to eat, which you know they love, (they will do almost anything if there is food involved, just sayin'), then performed what was perhaps the best "when you care" ever.  they were standing outside, overlooking LA, and just sang the hell out of that damn song.  i almost teared.  and the crowd LOVED them.  jeff took the flyers around afterwards, and they were loving him, it really was ALL good.

then i actually managed to get the cast back in a somewhat timely manner, just before michael the stage manager had a full-on anxiety attack.

so, back to the GLAAD awards.  michael was supposed to page me with a code if they won.  so we're waiting, and waiting.  then, just before intermission, i got it!!  i screamed, bobby screamed, and i ran in back to get the letters to change the marquee out in front from "nominated" to "winner".  but no one could tell the cast, and karen actually managed to keep hole shut when she went back stage.  will wonders never cease?  ;)  anyway, ronda,. kim and steve got back during "when you care" and as steve already told you,. did the curtain call announcement.  the audience went crazy.

then, the best part of the night was when jimmy and michael got back to the theatre.  we broke out the champagne and everyone toasted and we got to hear what the evening was like.  apparently, our acceptance speech made a huge impact on the crowd... this is an award that tls deserved, no question about it.  and to have such an amazing organization recognize it, in front of so many people, it must have been a spectacular night.

and no one deserves the recognition more than the 5 who were there.  there would be no story without steve and jimmy, and no LA production without michael, ronda and kim.  you should have seen us all in the lobby, all of us crying.  it was such a great moment in time.

i am so lucky to get to do what i do.  so very very lucky.


We have to keep Lori thinking that she's the lucky one because without her and "her staff," we'd all have killed each other by now.
Friday, April 23, 1999.
Morning Blood sugar: 125

Afternoon: 119

I started back to the gym a few days ago and boy are my arms tired! :-) Per doctor's orders even though I *hate* exercise, I went to the gym today. My second time.

Yesterday, I could barely walk, my legs were so tight, I just laid on the couch. And I couldn't raise my arms over my head. (I guess that's a good work-out -- also shows how out of shape I'm in.)

Dr. Peter wants me back on Monday so we can really look at the blood sugar levels. Dickie says in his groups at Being Alive, diet changes and pills are not really helping many of the people whose systems are being screwed up by the protease inhibitors.

However, I'm encouraged by the results we're showing now. The question is "What is the protease inhibitor in combination with the 'nukes' doing to me?"

Why are we all getting these weird fat deposits all over our bodies (lipodystrophy? Why do our faces become hollow? Why are we becoming diabetic? Is it wrecking our pancreas's? Livers? And why is my blood thick with fat, triglycerides?

It feels almost ungrateful to ask questions like this. As Dickie has posted on the Discussion Board, he's managed to save his life once again with a unique combination of experimental drugs (which he thought up, of course). A couple of months ago, we thought we would have to say bye bye.

So, you know... Here I am complaining about having a skinny face while he goes back and forth across the edge of death. Here I am trying to decide if I need "this" pill instead of "that" pill while he sits patiently, hoping his new experimental treatment will last long enough until the next one comes along -- or his liver gives out, whichever comes first.

It's a great comfort and a terrifying thrill to contemplate a full life. I mean I've already lived several. How can I be so greedy for more?

(Parenthetically, when drug companies test new drugs, they start out by looking for fresh candidates who have used none of the drugs on the market so far. Salvage patients like Dickie usually have to wheedle their way into studies.)

OFF: this weekend Nancy Gibbs, who was our General Manager and co-producer of the original off-Broadway production is coming to see the show. It'll be her first time to see the West Coast production.

OFF AGAIN: I've updated the tour page once again.

Saturday-Sunday, April 24, 1999.
Katie Springs a Surprise.
Katie loves coming into town without telling anyone. She's going to put a report about her trip on her Letters to Sparky site soon. But here is a picture of her with Jimmy and Charles Nelson Reilly.

Charles brought Ruby Dee to the show on Sunday and she told Jimmy it was "Very deep," promising to bring her husband in a couple of weeks.

On Sunday too, Dickie, Gail and I went to a reception for Being Alive's new Executive Director, Juan Carlos Ledesma. We sat with some new board members and talked about non-profits, etc.

Later on, there was a big meeting with people from Chicago regarding a production of Last Session there. Still looking for a big star. They feel the show isn't famous enough to draw on its own. Hey, big star! Are you out there??

I have to tell you that I was bitterly disappointed with the description of the GLAAD Media Awards on their site. It was all about Tom Hanks and Whoopi and Sharon. And not one word about us. Not one word.

How is this possible? I expect it in the big media. They don't care about issues, only famous faces. Jimmy and I don't have famous faces so we don't appear on ET or the news.

But GLAAD is supposed to be on our side. Their one job is to put the spotlight on gay positive images in the arts and media. That's their job. That's what they do. So a little show like ours depends upon groups like this for visibility. We thought it was the one place where we would have a spotlight, even if it's just a little one.

I wrote them several emails but have received no response from anyone. Ah, the real world, it just never stops being real, does it?

Bitter... Party of one!

Monday-Sunday, April 25- May 1, 1999.
New York Plans. Great Weekend.
This past weekend, we got to play with First Angel who came into town from El Paso with Steve his nephew, Martha and Gary were in from Cincinnati. DeAnn and Gayle came up but I called their little boy "Cody" instead of "Dylan" -- I guess I just think of Kathie Lee when I think of DeAnn.

Gary Bankston stunned everyone with knock-out performances as Gideon while Bob Stillman was doing his duty as a good son and a family member by going to a Bar Mitzvah in Ohio. Audience members were saying, as they went out the door, "He's just the understudy?? The other guy must be amazing!!"

And no, Bob Stillman isn't amazing. He's talentless bum but what can you do? People can be so easily swayed by world class musicianship, a voice that rivals anybody's in theatre or pop today, movie star good looks, years of acting experience...

photo by gail
This is Maisey killing Amy right where they had their car accident. We're going to do a little fundraiser for Maisey to help her buy a new one. Stay tuned.

Not sure where we'll have it, maybe Sam's or Marlowe's but there has to be a piano. MAY 23. While the show is on out here, we can be having our own celebration. I would love to see all the New York TLS fans.

I've set a new recording session for May 11th. Bob Stillman is going to record "Going It Alone." Maisey is singing "You Are A Stranger," Amy is singing "Sad Lady" and -- well, maybe we can sell this cassette and give the money to Maisey's new car fund. Last night in the dressing room, the girls were talking about doing a little concert/fundraiser between shows one day. And that made me think that this is what the new tape could support.

Just thinking out loud...

5/31 am blood sugar: 121

5/30 am: 111

5/29 pm: 141

5/29 am: 115

5/28 pm: 116

5/28 am: 68

5/27 pm: 149

5/27 am: 149

5/26 pm: 191

Jeff Juday pokes his face into my pic with Ruby Dee.
He's such an evil child.
photo by katie
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